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tv   [untitled]    April 9, 2012 11:00pm-11:30pm EDT

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barbara and langdon sought to c capture a rural picturesque park like setting during the 19th century. a house at 419 u street is filed as an italian villa in the fashion of andrew jackson downing and these files were popular as a result of his book the architecture of country houses. other popular styles that were influenced by downing and employed by the architect james mcgill were gothic revival, second empire, east lake and queen anne. some of the special features of mcgill's homes were halls and stairways, liberal-sized rooms, pantries, bedroom closets, china closets, bay windows, balconies, decorative tile roofs with gingerbread trim, iron grill, velvet wallpaper and such amenities such as gas, water and sewage.
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when barber, langdon and mcgill all lived in ledroit park, along with benjamin butterworth from ohio and henry gannett the noted geologist and father of american map making whites began moving out of ledroit park shortly after blacks started to move in. also advancements in transportation made residential life possible on the outskirts of the city. the white community was stunned when the first black community, barber, williams, his wife and daughter moved in to 338 u street. someone fired a bullet in to one of their windows. eventually it settled down and the second family moved in. they were the very famous robert terrell, who was the first municipal court judge in washington appointed by president taft, and also mary church doral who is legendary for her civil rights work
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and her work with the women's suffrage movement. by 1913 the community was supported by a black-owned grocery store and other black businesses. after world war i, more and more blacks from southern communities were moving into d.c. as part of the great migration. with the racial shift in the nation's capital came greater racial intolerance, conflict and more and more segregation. in 1919, racial riots occurred in numerous cities throughout the country including chicago and washington, d.c. de priest was considered a hero in chicago during their riots for repeatedly making trips to the chicago stockyards to rescue black workers who were trapped inside. he also broke through hostile white crowds to get meat for people living in the black community. at the unveiling of the lincoln memorial in 1922, blacks were
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herded in to a separate section, away from the main seating area. a marine used racial epithets in addressing them. even the keynote speaker dr. robert moton, the second president of the tuskegee university was relegated to this segregated area. in his speech he compared the may flower destined for plymouth, massachusetts, and the slave ship destined for jamestown as the forces of liberty and bondage constantly contending for america's soul. an editorial in the chicago defender pleaded with song, prayer, fold and truthful this speech, with faith in god and country later on let us dedicate this temple thus far only open. some believe that dedication occurred in 1963 with the march on washington and martin luther king's "i have a dream" speech a silent parade by 1500 blacks in 1925 in washington to protest
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lynchings in the south received little attention in the press. however, there was extensive coverage of the 25,000 or more who participated in a kkk rally. this then was the nature of the social and political climate in the united states in 1929 that set the stage for the national controversy that involved the de priests living at 419 u street northwest and the hoovers at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. it was a tradition for the first lady to invite congressional wives to a tea at the white house. president hoover noted in his memoirs that his wife was determined to treat mrs. de priest equally in spite of the prevailing racial at institutes in 1929. hoover had succeeded in getting elected with the support of southern democrats, who most likely would not condone blacks being conceived as equals
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on a social basis in the white house. the dilemma was this. should the first lady hold one tea with all the congressional wives and risk a boycott by southerners or should the hoovers risk being socially offensive by canceling the event altogether? in her childhood, mrs. hoover had african-american friends in california, but she was also exposed to different social cultures when her family lived in texas. as an adult, she helped to finance the education of a young african-american woman who was a maid because she believed she recognized her leadership potential. she and her husband refused to sign a restrictive covenant to prevent blacks from buying or renting a home they purchased in d.c. she was also active with the girl scouts and did try to uphold those values. several staff members of the white house were involved in planning for the tea.
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miss mary randall, the social secretary of mrs. hoover, wrote to walter newton, an important aide to the president for advice. she explained the question arises to what can be done about the family of our new colored representative. mrs. hoover wishes for me to ask for your suggestion and remind you we must not only think of this occasion but what is to be done during the entire term of the representative. no doubt mrs. hoover and her staff considered the public outcry over president teddy roosevelt's invitation to booker t. washington to the white house in 1901. so it was decided that rather than having one large tea for everyone, first lady hoover would have several teas. they had five in all. at the first four, there were approximately 180 to 200 persons in attendance.
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then the final tea of 15 persons was the one in which mrs. de priest was invited. there were several different lists of drafts of guests who were to come, and the final shows mrs. hoover's sister, jean hoover large, her secretaries, supporters of her husband's from different parts of -- different representatives. an invitation was sent to mrs. de priest on june 5th, the date of the fourth tea. it was emphasized to be very confidential about this and to caution the messenger from refraining giving any information about it. the event was pleasant and held in the green room of the white house. however, afterwards there was a
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storm of criticism in the press mostly from the south and also some state legislatures issued resolutions of condemnation. for today there are 1,000 letters on file for mrs. hoover at the hoover presidential library and almost as many for the president as well. just as an example, one letter says, "mrs. hoover, you remember that florida, virginia, north carolina, tennessee, and texas gave mr. hoover a large majority last fall. well, we thought we were putting a real white lady in the white house. didn't even dream you would disgrace the white house by association with negros." but there were also supporters and they were mostly northern and liberal periodicals, but also individuals.
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a person by the name of a.e. bruce says, "mrs. herbert hoover, we have been watching with much interest the newspaper accounts of recent occurrences at the white house. fortunately, or unfortunately, we are white folks, but we have never been able to convince ourselves that the color of our skin had any particular relation to the size of our brains or the use to which we put them. and we are quite sure in our own minds that the nondiscriminatory action which you have recently taken should merit only the approval of all right-minded people." and how did congressman de priest handle this? he was not one to shy away from an opportunity on civil rights and i'm sure de priest is going to give you an idea of his personality. but when asked about his opinion, he said, and "time"
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magazine quoted him, i am delighted beyond measure at the fine social context my wife was able to make at the white house. she greatly enjoyed herself and is greatly delighted." about a month after the affair, mrs. de priest addressed 300 women of the pilgrim baptist church in chicago about the affair. she was quoted as saying, "the president's wife is a wonderful hostess. i believe she possesses a great soul. she is quiet and unassuming, quite modest, but she has all the dignity her position demands. she went on the say, "the ladies at the party discussed such problems as you and i may discuss at a sunday afternoon in this church. there was no excitement when i entered the white house. all the storm and criticism has been stirred up since and outside of the capital and mostly below the mason dixon line." two years later on january
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29th, 1931, congressman and mrs. de priest, who were still residents of 419 u street northwest were invited to the white house for a reception as guests of the president and first lady hoover. the press reported that they mingled with the speaker of the house, longworth, and other dignitaries in the east room of the white house. this time there was no storm of criticism. congressman de priest served in the 71st, 72nd, and 73rd sessions of congress. he's remembered for courageously challenging segregation and racial discrimination. he fought for blacks to have the right to eat in the house restaurant rather than confined to a separate facility. next to the kitchen in the basement of the house. he fought for the reduction of the number of seats in the house for states that disfranchised blacks. just as congressman white had done. he fought to honor and assist former slaves who were 75 years and older by giving them a
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federal pension. he fought to authorize federal courts to change the location of a trial of a defendant's right to impartiality was at risk due to matters of race, color or creed as in the scottsboro case. he risked his life speaking ardently all over the country, including the south, to make states and counties responsible for the prevention of lynching. yet even in his home state of illinois, he found himself being burned in effigy by the kkk. and when newspaper headlines and editorials all over the country mocked the attendance of his wife at the white house for a tea at the invitation of the nation's first lady, he fought for her right, respect, and dignity as an american citizen and as the wife of a duly elected member of the united states congress. the de priests left 419 u street
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and moved to 1923 15th street. when they left that home, the new owners found thousands of copies of the u.s. constitution that congressman de priest used to distribute to citizens to promote equal justice under the law. in concluding, i just want to share with you as bill asked me to to tell a little bit with about the research process. as he has already indicated, he gave me an opportunity to pursue something i have been wanting to pursue for almost 20 years in between raising kids and going to school and working. so i'm very grateful to bill for that. and i first discovered the story while researching some things randomly in the research center at howard university where i work. and i saw an article called "mrs. de priest drinks tea." by w.e. dubois. and then i was able to reach out
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to the hoover presidential library and they shared some of these letters. then i happened to finally mention to my mother what i was trying to do, and she said, you know, i know a member of the de priest family. i said, you do? it turned out she and barbara de priest bowled on the same league. so i reached out to barbara. barbara, are you here? you and your grandchildren and your children. maybe people can say hi to members of the de priest family. and when i reached out to her, her husband had just died. she said i'll get back to you. when she did, i was in school taking the course with bill. she wanted to make sure that her artifacts weren't just sitting in dusty shelves and they would get public exposure. so i thank the white house historical society for honoring that prayer. and also the story about the
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documents in the home on 15th street, a colleague of mine james k. hill, i don't know if he's here, but he happened to tell me that story which was a nice little bit. but as i did the research, the big question was to me, what did she look like? because there was so much negativity. then i found this picture. my father said you work in a library. why don't you go down there and see what's in there. it finally done donned on me to go look at the black press and there she was in "the chicago defender" and "the washington tribune." they had taken the time to get these formal portraits done to document that day in history. and then when i met barbara, she was able to share more. on a personal basis, i think the other thing that touched me was
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i actually happened to be in the gallery of the house visitors gallery in 1969 when my own father was sworn into office. and in 1969, there had not been that many members, nine since 1877, the other picture i had shown you. so it meant a lot to me to consider the perspective of the de priests' experience. this is one of the pictures that barbara shared with us, which i was so grateful to know. and in concluding, i just want to say that it seems so ironic that we also have another family from chicago in the white house today and we don't have these issues anymore. and so i think it's quite wonderful. [ applause ] >> so let me just thank everybody who helped make this happen. i feel that it is a blessing
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because i don't think these things could have happened. they weren't humanly possible to bring about on our own. so i thank god for it. thank you. [ applause ] on "washington journal" we'll discuss the 2012 campaign with richard land, head of the religious and ethics committee of the southern baptist convention. and we'll look at the mission of the u.s. institute of peace and its work in afghanistan, pakistan and syria. we'll be joined by the institute's president, richard solomon, the head of its afghanistan program, andrew wilder, and steve hadiman for middle east initiatives. "washington journal" is live at 7:00 a.m. eastern. tonight on c-span 3 it's american history tv. we look with the lives of after afterry can americans in washington, d.c. next a discussion with descendents of african-american
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families who lived and worked in the nation's capital during the 18th and 19th centuries. this is 45 minutes. for our final session today we have a treat, i think. we're pleased to assemble family members who heard many of the stories that were shared this morning and this afternoon, but they bring their own personal perspectives. to further illuminate them. as we started to do with sthelly, there are a lot of family members here today and i'd love it if you would stand up and let us welcome you. everyone here representing the families here on stage. [ applause ] >> i had to bring my own audience. professor marya mcquirter, who will introduce our panelists and moderate this discussion, is an
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authority with broad and deep knowledge of african-american history in the nation's capital. as just one example of how she's shared this knowledge, many of you, i think, because i know we're out of them, have picked up her award-winning guide "the african-american heritage trail of washington, d.c." she also co-founded the d.c. community heritage project, which has held a series of public workshops throughout the city offering training to grass roots organizers and historians interested in preserving local heritage resources. please welcome marya mcquirter. >> good afternoon. can you all hear me? excellent. it's a pleasure to be with you today at this enlightening and important conference. fittingly for the final panel of the conference, we have descendants of four lafayette square families. the de priests, the wormleys, the syphaxs, and the jennings. and i say it's fitting because part of what we, and especially the white house historical
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association, is charged with is figuring out what the meanings of these families are for us today. and who better to give insight into the marrying of the history, the present and the future, than the descendants who embody that continuum. today we have phil de priest, don graves, steve hammond, and angela hayes-toliver. you all have their bios in the program, but i'll go say a few words about them. starting with our first panelist is phil de priest, who is a resident of chicago and is an investment executive with mb financial investments. it's wonderful that he's here visiting us from chicago, one of my favorite cities, after d.c., of course. next we have don graves who gave us an earlier presentation that we all heard and enjoyed. he's a lawyer visiting us from cleveland, ohio. >> another favorite city. >> yes, exactly. of course. and a descendant of one of the
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renowned families of d.c., the wormleys. our third panelist is steve hammond. he's a deputy associate director for hazards and here with us locally in reston, virginia. and then finally, our fourth panelist is angela hayes-toliver, a health analyst with the u.s. department of health and human services and she's a lifelong washingtonian. so i welcome you all here and look forward to hearing the wonderful things you have to say about your families. our panelists will speak for five minutes as they appear in the program and then we will give you the audience an opportunity to ask them questions. so let's start with phil de priest. >> thank you. first of all, i want to thank neil horseman, john riley, alexandra lane and brenda fike
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for putting together this great project on my great-grandparents. and of course, shelley stokes-hammond for a great piece. i wanted to embellish a few of the stories that shelley had spoken of. in particular, the congressional dining room incident of 1934. now oscar de priest was sworn in in 1929. the actual incident didn't take place until 1934. when that happened, lindsey warren, who was a democrat from north carolina, had mr. morris lewis, who is my great-grandfather's secretary, and his son ejected from the dining room.
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now, he had been eating there for the better part of five years already. and it was more of a political move by representative warren than anything else. but nevertheless it started a huge controversy. my great-grandfather had been dining there and bringing my great-grandmother in, my son, my grandfather who is the tall gentleman to the left of my great-grandfather. he had also befriended a porter who worked for the washington, d.c. transportation department. and he mentioned he was one of the darkest people he'd ever met and would bring him into the congressional dining room, a, because he was a friend, and b, because he wanted to piss off members of the southern delegation at the same time. i don't know if it was this gentleman up here or not, but
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the gentleman behind him has a distinctive grin on his face. it's almost a smirk. so it may or may not have been him. anyway, it started quite a controversy and made headlines around the country. my great-grandfather introduced legislation for an official investigation into this matter. on the house floor he refuted the claim that african-americans had been banned from the restaurant because he had eaten there ever since he had gotten elected. my great-grandfather said on the floor of the house of representatives, and this is a quote, if we allow segregation constitutional rights under the dome of the capital, where in god's name would we get them?" he said later on, if we allow this challenge to go without correcting it, it will set an
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example where people will say congress itself approves of segregation. he had a resolution which was to say the least hostile towards any kind of civil rights initiative in this country, let alone in congress. what he did, in fact, was kept the measure alive using a parliamentary procedure. he collected 145 member signatures on a discharge petition to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. the house, in fact, voted in favor of de priest's call for an investigation by an investigate ory committee but unfortunately, the panel created -- that created the state policy of segregation split along party lines, three democrats and two republicans. and they refused to recommend any revisions. so in effect, the house officially kept the dining room segregated and there it died
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after that. i want to talk momentarily about the day he was sworn in to congress. after the swearing in was done, the hopes, dreams and aspirations of 12 million african-americans were lifted to a height that was never felt before in the 20th century. they had no representation. there was a reporter for the "chicago defender" who said and i quote, as he walked down the aisle his face was grim, almost to the point of sternness as if the solemnness of the occasion rested on his shoulders. i think it dawned on him at that point that he was the sole voice
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for 12 million african-americans in this country. i can't imagine the weight of responsibility that he must have felt at that time. think about that. one voice for every african-american in this country. for the next six years, he was the only member of color in the entire united states congress. this was 1929 in washington, d.c., it's a southern town. so we dealt with covert in your face racism every single day he was there. for every restaurant in town for the fourth congress, he dealt with a hostile, racist environment, yet he was able to persevere and succeed in advancing the betterment of african-americans. he would do what he had to do. crossing party lines was not an issue to him.
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if he found a supporter be it democrat or republican, then so be it. he would welcome that support. he would acknowledge that support. he was the black caucus of one. there's 42 now in the house and senate. by then a black caucus of just him. i know my time is limited. i have been accused of being long winded before in the past. in closing, his efforts to try to level the playing field for his african-american constituents never ended. when he left congress, after two failed attempts to get re-elected, he went back to the chicago city council in 1943. in doing so, he had reached out to mayor ed kelly, who was a democrat, and got his support in
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passing a fair employment practice act in the city of chicago that de priest had introduced in the city council, which, by the way, had failed in the state legislature in illinois earlier that year. he wrote an open letter addressed to his republican voters, friends and citizens in 1944 because he had been -- by lambasted by the chicago newspapers for supporting kelly, who was a democrat. he said, and i quote "i contend then and i still contend that if negro people are good enough to give their lives for their country, they are then entitled wherever qualified to hold any position in their country's government which they are helping to maintain through their taxes, their blood, and their loyalty." i thought this really hits a nail on the head where oscar de


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